Genesis 24

Introduction: Rebekah chosen to be Isaac’s wife
“Rebekah is unique among the wives of the patriarchs in at least two ways. First, she alone has a consistently monogamous marriage; we know of no other woman who married Isaac. Second, she plays a more active role in the Genesis narrative than her patriarch husband; her individuality and vitality among the covenant people is striking in stories of her qualifying as Isaac’s wife, receiving revelation from God for their sons, and ensuring the bestowal of the birthright on Jacob, as God intended… By contrast, Isaac is remarkably passive in the narrative.”
“Resolute in her duties, Rebekah demonstrated her faith in God by an unflinching commitment to act on what she knew to be right. Beginning with a servant’s inspired mission to identify the wife of soon-to-be-patriarch Isaac, the Rebekah narrative is dynamic and rich.” (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 49)
Genesis 24:1 Abraham was old, and well stricken in age
“For all Abraham knew, he would soon die. Sarah had recently died. Isaac needed a wife, and if Abraham was to have any say in the matter, it was time to act.
“How old was Abraham at this time? (See Gen. 21:5 and 25:20.)
“The scriptures say, ‘Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him’ (Genesis 21:5) and ‘Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife’ (Genesis 25:20). Thus, Abraham was 140 years old at this time. But he was far from being on his deathbed. He died when he was 175 (Genesis 25:7-8), and in the meantime had another wife and six children (Genesis 25:1-2).” (Feasting upon the Word [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 66)
Genesis 24:2 eldest servant of his house
The text doesn’t name the servant but many believe it was Eliezer who was described by Abraham as “the steward of my house” in Gen. 15:2.
F. Burton Howard
One of my heroes has always been the servant of Abraham who was sent to find a wife for Isaac. We do not know his name. We do not know much about his life, but we know a great deal about his character. It was he who governed everything that Abraham had. He was trustworthy and he was trusted. The day came when Abraham put into the care of this servant the most important matter of all—the exaltation of his son.
He wanted Isaac to be an heir of the covenant which he had made with the Lord. He knew that the blessings of that covenant could not be realized if Isaac didn’t marry a good and worthy woman who believed in God. No woman in the land of Canaan was capable of being the mother of Israel. So Abraham asked his servant to promise that he would not permit his son to marry a Canaanite. Instead Abraham sent him to the land of his fathers to find a wife for Isaac.
…A few, not understanding the significance of the errand, might have tried to talk Abraham out of the assignment, claiming that it was foolishness to travel so far in search of a wife. Some would not have had the faith necessary to discover which of all of the young women of the city was the chosen one. Yet this servant did. He knew how to magnify his calling and accomplish that which he had promised his master. He understood a very important truth. Promises are not just pretty words. Promises have eternal consequences. (“Commitment,” Ensign, May 1996, 28)
Genesis 24:2 Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh
“In preparation for his departure to Haran, the servant made a formal vow to Abraham in an unusual manner: He placed his hand under Abraham’s thigh (Genesis 24:2-3,9). The most generally accepted explanation for the custom is derived by considering the proximity of the thigh to the organ of procreation reflecting that the oath was important as it pertained to Abraham’s posterity and the continuation of the covenant. But the Joseph Smith Translation changes thigh to hand, rendering the oath “put, I pray thee thy hand under my hand in both references in Genesis 24. In this context, then, the description of my making an oath by placing one’s hand under another’s hand may be suggesting the modern-day equivalent of shaking hands to seal an agreement.” (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 50)
Genesis 24:3 thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites
Abraham has his reasons for not wanting his covenant son Isaac to marry among the Canaanites. Abraham himself had an Egyptian concubine in Hagar; he knew the issues. He must have seen the wickedness and idolatry among the Canaanites. His wisdom was sufficient to understand that idolatrous women can have an effect on their husbands over time. In a policy that would foreshadow marriage practices for the children of Israel, Isaac is to marry from among his own people. To marry among the Gentiles would be the downfall of Solomon, and eventually the house of Israel.
For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4)
Shechaniah… said unto Ezra, we have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land. (Ezra 10:2)
For the same reasons, we want our children to marry in the temple. That is not likely to happen if they spend their time dating Canaanites.
“Marry in the temple to begin with, if you want the greatest assurance of happiness in this life and eternal happiness in the world to come…
“What a priceless blessing—to be married to the right person in the right place by the right authority, knowing that if we proved faithful to our temple covenants, we would be together as a celestial family for time and all eternity!” (Mark Hart, “After Twenty Years,” Ensign, Sept. 1985, 50)
Marlin K. Jensen
If we pursue the goal of an eternal marriage with purity and with both our hearts and our minds, I believe in most cases we will eventually be rewarded with a companion who is at least our spiritual equal and who will cleave unto intelligence and light as we do, who will receive wisdom as we receive it, who will embrace truth as we embrace it, and who will love virtue as we love it. To spend the eternities with a companion who shares the most important fundamental values with us and who will discuss them, live them, and join in teaching them to children is among the most soul-satisfying experiences of true romantic love. To know that there will be someone who walks a parallel path of goodness and growth with us and yearns for the same eternal values and happiness is of great comfort. (“A Union of Love and Understanding,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 49)
Ezra Taft Benson
If someone wants to marry you outside the temple, whom will you strive to please—God or a mortal? If you insist on a temple marriage, you will be pleasing the Lord and blessing the other party. Why? Because that person will either become worthy to go to the temple—which would be a blessing—or will leave—which could also be a blessing—because neither of you should want to be unequally yoked (see 2 Cor. 6:14).
You should qualify for the temple. Then you will know that there is no one good enough for you to marry outside the temple. If such individuals are that good, they will get themselves in a condition so that they too can be married in the temple.
We bless our fellowmen the most when we put the first commandment first. (Ensign, May 1988, 6)
Genesis 24:5 Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land
“Eliezer's mind is quick and active in the exercise of his stewardship; in this, as in other incidents, he is the model of a good steward. He is also conscientious—he doesn't want to take an oath he might not be able to keep. And of course, he won't be able to keep it if the woman won't follow him. Abraham is sensitive to Eliezer's unspoken wish not to make an oath he can't keep, and in verse 8 states the conditions that will free Eliezer from the oath.
“Eliezer was obviously a trustworthy steward who, by his past initiative and good judgment in managing Abraham's affairs, had gained Abraham's confidence. Abraham trusts his faithful steward, feeling no compulsion to hover over him like a mother hen, afraid to relinquish control. This is how a good servant-master relationship should be, including ours with the Lord. Remember, ‘for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant.’ (D&C 58:26.) Notice how the words ‘servant’ and ‘master’ are repeated in verses 9 and 10, drawing our attention to the relationship as a good example.” (Dennis and Sandra Packard, Feasting upon the Word [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 68, 70)
Genesis 24:7 the Lord God of heaven… shall send his angel before thee
Notice Abraham’s great faith. He doesn’t have power over angels, but he knows God will prepare the way. His faith is great enough that he knows the Lord will take care of his servant. Having internalized the principle, he implicitly understands, spiritually comprehends, and most of all believes the Lord’s promise “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
Genesis 24:10 the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master
Eliezer has power to take whatever he wants. He may have had some travelling companions but certainly didn’t need 10 camels for himself. Taking that many camels is a sign of wealth. He must have had them carrying Abraham’s wealth as well as supplies for the journey. This was for show but also important in showering the prospective family with gifts—the dowry idea. He gave Rebekah gifts of jewelry (v. 22) followed by “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment” (v. 53); he gave Rebekah’s family gifts as well, “he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.” Finally, extra camels would be necessary for the return trip. Rebekah would not go alone, but would be accompanied by an unspecified number of her servants (v. 61).
Genesis 24:10 the servant… arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor
Nahor is the name of Abraham’s brother. Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran with his father Terah (Gen. 11:31). Nahor must have come with them at that time.
“Travel from Hebron to Nahor would likely have taken the servant and his entourage nearly a month to complete, covering a distance of some 850 miles. The city of Nahor was likely either another name for Haran or a community near Haran that was located in the larger area of Aram-Haharaim (Syria or ‘Aram of the two rivers ‘), translated in the biblical account as ‘Mesopotamia’ (Genesis 24:10).” (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 51)
It requires much time to pass through Mesopotamia, in which it is tedious travelling, both in winter, for the depth of the clay, and in summer for the want of water; and, besides this, for the robberies there committed, which are not to be avoided by travelers but by caution beforehand. However, the servant came to Haran. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, 16:1)
Genesis 24:15 Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor
In the story, it would appear that Bethuel is dead because his son Laban is running the household. But the relationship to Abraham is interesting. Abraham 2:2 reminds us that Nahor was Abraham’s brother. That would make Bethuel first cousins with Isaac. Bethuel’s daughter, Rebekah, would then be Isaac’s first cousin once removed.
Genesis 24:19 I will draw water for thy camels also
“Rebekah must have worked hard to refresh those ten camels after their long journey, yet she did it without hesitation. When she was presented with expensive gifts from a stranger, she didn't lose her composure; rather, she was deliberate and systematic. She named her parentage and assured him that his unexpected arrival would not embarrass the household.
“Rebekah rises from the scriptures as a lively, intelligent, quick-witted young girl with an unfaltering grasp of the events around her. Rebekah's first thought was to give hospitality; this is also true of her family.” (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 18)
Elaine Jack
Respectfully, she offered an act of service, a simple one, and from that act was born a family of great influence for whole dispensations. Rebekah loved with worthiness and willingness as a daughter of God. Remember the question, Who can gauge the reach of our goodness?
From her we learn that charity, though often quantified as the action, is actually the state of the heart that prompts us to love one another. She offered water. It was in the offering that charity was manifest. (“Strengthened in Charity,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 92)
Genesis 24:27 The Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren
The servants task required four parts: 1) travelling to Haran, 2) finding Abraham’s relatives, 3) determining who should be Isaac’s wife, and 4) convincing the woman and her family that she should be married to Abraham’s son. It would appear that after step 1 was accomplished, the servant was worried about finding Abraham’s relatives. He was overjoyed that his prayer was answered so quickly. Upon arriving at the outskirts, he accomplishes steps 2 and 3 in a matter of minutes.
Genesis 24:45 before I had done speaking in mine hear, behold, Rebekah came forth
Some prayers are answered according to the Lord’s time. However, sometimes the Lord’s will is to bless us immediately. We probably underestimate how readily and immediately the Lord responds to our requests. The servant wasn’t even done speaking when Rebekah comes as an answer to his prayer. It is reminiscent of how willing the Lord is to give us good gifts—if we ask him. How fast does the Lord work? “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)
Neal A. Maxwell
The task is to draw close enough to the Lord that we progress to the point where we petition Him according to His will, not ours. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” (1 John 5:14.) In modern revelations the Lord has declared His willingness to grant us the requests contained in our petitions if what we ask for is expedient for us. (D&C 88:64-65.)
When we become sufficiently purified and cleansed from sin, we can ask what we will in the name of Jesus “and it shall be done.” (D&C 50:29.) The Lord even promises us that when one reaches a certain spiritual condition, “it shall be given you what you shall ask.” (D&C 50:30.)
Thus we clearly need to have the Spirit with us as we petition, because “in the Spirit” we will ask “according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30.) (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 95)
Genesis 24:49 if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me
To paraphrase, the servant says, “That’s my story, now answer me; tell me if you will send Rebekah with me. I am on a mission and am eager to accomplish it.” The servant has had a revelation that Rebekah should be Isaac’s wife. This is an unusual circumstance in that Rebekah and her family must now decide how to respond. It begs the question, why would the Lord send revelation to Rebekah through someone else? Does Abraham’s servant have any right to receive revelation for Rebekah? The answer is no. He has the right to receive revelation for the task before him by inquiring of the Lord. His prayer has been answered, but the choice is still Rebekah’s and her families’. They must make a determination as to the validity of this story. How do they respond?
Notice that the servant is not coercive. Some have tried to use this trick to influence the behavior of others in an unrighteous manner.
Stephen E. Robinson
Almost every year at BYU… I am… approached by some student (male or female, though the majority are female) with the following story: "Brother Robinson, my boyfriend (or girlfriend, as the case may be) is a returned missionary, and he has had a revelation that I am supposed to marry him. I'm not really in love with this person, but should I marry him anyway? I don't want to disobey the Lord."
"Well," I reply, "what is the order of the priesthood? Who is entitled to receive revelation for you? The apostles and prophets in the faithful performance of their stewardships. Your stake president, your bishop, your parents, and your husband (also in the faithful performance of their rightful stewardships). Finally, and most importantly, you. You are entitled to receive revelation for yourself, and you are required to confirm for yourself all revelation received for you by those in the priesthood line of authority. Is this person, this returned missionary with the revelation, in your priesthood line of authority? No, of course not, though he desperately wants to be. Has the Lord confirmed this revelation to you personally? No, he hasn't. Then get as far away from this person as you can, and do it as fast as you can. This is someone who is trying to use your religion to manipulate and control you. Get away now before you are caught in the snare!"
Now, there may be cases from time to time where the Lord reveals to someone whom they are going to marry. My grandmother, Willmia Brown, for example, once heard an audible voice identify Joseph E. Robinson as her future husband, and it turned out to be so. But in such cases the revelation will be kept confidential until the other party has come to the same conclusion. Such a sacred insight will not be used like a crowbar to try to pry someone else into compliance. If it is genuine, it will come to pass on its own.
The Saints need to become more sophisticated in detecting spiritual snake-oil dealers. Whether they're peddling marriage or plural marriage or revelations or books or politics or special doctrines or special diets or herbs and vitamins or the "original" Greek (or Hebrew) or financial advice or "LDS" investments or whatever—if they are using religion to help sell their product or point of view, then they represent the cunning snares of Satan. (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 104)
Glenn L. Pace
In spiritual things we need to learn when we have had a witness of the Spirit and be able to recognize a counterfeit thrown at us by Satan or self-imposed by our own ambition and desire. Sometimes a young man will tell his girlfriend, “I have received a spiritual witness that you are to be my wife.” In some cases I would suggest the witness is more a desire than a manifestation. If, when the time comes, you receive that witness, put it to the test. Ask her to marry you. If she says yes, you were right; if she says no, you were wrong. But keep your witness to yourself. She is perfectly capable of receiving her own revelation. (New Era, Mar. 1989, 50)
Genesis 24:58 Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go
Rebekah had never seen Isaac. Who would go just because Isaac was a kinsman and his father was rich? Arranged marriages may have been common, but we know her desire for love would be the same as any other young woman.
Where’s the romance? Does Rebekah get deprived of some essential female need? Does the Lord completely disregard the romantic part of the love relationship? The faithless may think so, but the Lord knows more about love and marriage than we can explain to Him. He knows that marriage is more about faith and love than it is about romance. Our current culture would teach the opposite—that marriage is all about romance and sex. The Lord would teach otherwise. Rebekah demonstrated great faith consistent with her character and would receive all the love a wife could ever want; “she became his wife; and he loved her” (v. 67)
“The story of Rebekah’s betrothal reveals the biblical attitude toward the nature and content of marriage. The union between man and woman must be grounded in the finest qualities, and Rebekah exhibits them to perfection. Her behavior shows modesty and hospitality; she is kind to animals and respectful of her own family. It is for such attributes that the servant prays; a woman who possesses them is indeed ‘very beautiful.’
“The marriage was arranged although the two principals had not as yet met. Modern man who thinks of marriage primarily as the fulfillment of a romantic relationship will find it difficult to see significant values in arranged marriages. But, for biblical man, the ideal was not ‘first love, then marriage,’ as it is today, but the reverse, ‘first marriage, then love.’
“The older system rested on the assumption that two persons will have a proper foundation for marriage if their backgrounds are generally compatible and if they set themselves to establish a home in which each partner plays his expected role. The two will come to know each other through marriage, and it is hoped that in time love will follow. Such love grows from shared experience, from mutual respect, and from affection for offspring. This arrangement raised fewer expectations and, therefore, was less subject to breakdown. At its best, it was no less productive of deep and abiding love than modern marriages that are expected to begin with it and maintain it forever.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 168)
Genesis 24:60 be thou the mother of thousands of millions
A thousand million is a billion. Would Rebekah be the mother of billions? That is a lot of souls. The statement shows that the servant had also communicated the promise given to Abraham and his seed—that they should number as the sands of the seashore and as the stars in the heavens for multitude. Some of that promise would be fulfilled through Ishmael, but the promise and covenant was to come through Isaac and that meant Rebekah. She would be the mother of Jacob, the grandmother of the 12 sons of Israel, and the sole matriarch of the covenant through Isaac. A “queen and a priestess” seem like menial titles for her.
Rebekah had to exercise great faith to put her life in the hands of this servant. By faith Abraham obtained the promise, by faith Sarah conceived (Heb. 11:8-18), and by faith Rebekah went to Isaac, not knowing what would befall her.
“Such was her faith and trust in the Lord she immediately accepted the invitation to leave her family, travel to a new country completely foreign to her with Abraham's servant and his men, to marry a man she had never met.” (LDS Church News, 1994, 05/07/94)
M. Russell Ballard
Our sisters can contribute the power of faith… They can bring the power of purity, through which "we may be purified even as [the Lord] is pure" (Moroni 7:48). And they generally possess the power of love, that which the Apostle Paul called charity, the greatest of all godly virtues (see 1 Corinthians 13:13). It is a short-sighted priesthood leader who does not see the value of calling upon the sisters to share the understanding and inspiration they possess. (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 53)